Responding to questions from European ministers and leaders on the crisis arising out of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Tuesday pointed to challenges in Asia and India’s neighbourhood — in Afghanistan, and from China — and said it was a “wake-up call” for Europe to look at these instances where “problems have been happening”.
This came a day after visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the killings in Bucha as “severe violations of international law” and said the outcome of the war in Ukraine will not only determine the future of Europe, but also “deeply affect the Indo-Pacific region and the rest of the world”. She urged all members of the international community to support efforts for lasting peace — in a reference soliciting India’s support.
On Tuesday, while responding to a question from Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, Jaishankar said, “You talked about Ukraine. I remember less than a year ago what happened in Afghanistan, where the entire civil society was thrown under the bus by the world. We in Asia face our own sets of challenges, which often has an impact on the rules-based order.” Huitfeldt had sought Jaishankar’s response on the view that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an attack against “independent and free societies”.
In recent weeks, Jaishankar has been sharp in his comments on Europe. In Washington DC, he said India’s total purchase of Russian energy for the month was “less than what Europe does in an afternoon”. Days earlier, speaking on the issue of sanctions as British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss listened, he said “it looks like a campaign”.
Responding to another question from Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, Jaishankar said, “If I were to put those very challenges in terms of principles, when a rules-based order was under challenge in Asia, the advice we got from Europe is: do more trade. At least we are not giving you that advice. And in Afghanistan, please show me which part of the rules-based order justified what the world did there?”
To another question from former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, Jaishankar said, “This could be a wake-up call for Europe, not just in Europe. It could be a wake-up call for Europe to also look at Asia. This has not been an easy part of the world for the last decade. And this is a part of the world where boundaries have not been settled, where terrorism is still practised, often sponsored by States. This is a part of the world where… the rules-based order has been under continuous stress for more than a decade. And I think it’s important for the rest of the world outside Asia to recognise this. It’s not that problems are going to happen. The problems have been happening.”
Bildt had asked Jaishankar on how China was going to respond after watching the global reaction to the Russian invasion on Ukraine.
Jaishankar made these remarks during a discussion at the Raisina Dialogue where all these ministers and leaders were in the audience.